DALLAS -- Patriots owner Robert Kraft will be present for Saturday's negotiating session between owners and the NFL Players Association. He was asked to attend by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and his presence reflects his influence in league circles.
Here were a few quick hits from Kraft on the labor situation:
What's at stake: "We have the greatest product going now. The American public and sponsors want this product. If we don't conclude a labor deal before March 4, that will be criminal."
What he feels needs to be done: "In a lot of businesses in America today, you don't have enough action or energy or opportunities to grow, so it's tough cutting back. But this is an industry that we have a chance to grow and do great things. We have to get the lawyers out of both sides of this and get a deal done. ... We have to get business people on both sides of the table."
Responding to the NFLPA's request to open their books: "If I thought that was the variable, I would push for that. The NBA opened its books. I don't want someone telling us we are not spending enough for a marketing guy, or this, or that. That isn't the key to getting a deal done. If it were, I'd be a big supporter of it. That's just a red herring."
Highlighting the NFL's popularity: "We have a sport now, you look at the ratings of the Pro Bowl. The Pro Bowl had the highest ratings in 14 years, and to me, it wasn't even a great game. But it just shows you people's appetite for our sport and they know it's coming to an end after this game."
His view on an 18-game season: "To me, to do a new labor deal is a pretty simple deal. It's two things. One is that we take the two preseason games and make them regular-season games, and we'll generate incremental revenue, the bulk of which goes to the players. The other thing we have to do, in my opinion, is adjust the rookie slotting system. Look what the top 3 or 4 [draft picks] got, and probably 60 percent of that revenue -- I'm just throwing that out -- in my mind should go back into the [salary] cap and to the veteran players. To me, that's the deal right there, those two things -- even under the current system [that] would allow our veteran players to come away with increases in their base."
Owners approach: "In my 17 years in the league, I've never seen everybody as unified as they are right now, in terms of getting a deal that works long-term."
How realistic it is to reach a deal by March 4: "We could do this deal next week, in my opinion."